Aside from having loved ones join you, or sipping a glass of wine, there are two things that can make time spent in the kitchen more enjoyable: the right tools available and mise en place (everything in place) – or the prep work already done. Instead of food today, I have a peek into my kitchen with some favorite tools that help make cooking a little easier. There are a lot more than 10 tools in my arsenal but these are at the top of my list. First, having at least one good quality sharp kitchen knife goes without saying and will always be my #1 essential kitchen tool. Here are a few of my essentials:
Garlic presses have gotten a bad rap over the years. I bought into the hype that a chef’s knife was the only way to chop (or mince or mash) garlic cloves at home and have officially bucked the trend by going old school. One of my favorite new tools from 2012 was a Kuhn-Rikon garlic press. It’s Swiss-made and a design marvel; ergonomically easy to squeeze, the compartment swings open completely allowing for simple clean-up.
Set of Mixing Bowls
I love my glass nesting mixing bowls because they are all in one place, have various sizes and convenient to use. If I had the room, I would add a set of stainless steel bowls.
Never underestimate the value of a good whisk. Look for well-balanced, strong handles, firm whisks and a good overall weight. Plastic covered whisks help protect the pan surface and won’t scratch.
Parchment Paper (Costco)
Oh, what would I do without my parchment paper! I was first introduced to it in the culinary world and have been smitten ever since. It is the perfect liner for sheet pans to roast vegetables or bake cookies, and the best way to cook bacon without the mess or splatter.
Here’s how I cook bacon in the oven: Heat oven to 375º and line a sheet pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to overlap the edges (helps keep the grease contained). Separate the bacon slices and place on the sheet pan in a single layer. Cook the bacon for 20 to 25 minutes until golden and crispy, turning slices over once during baking. For easy clean-up, let the pan cool, gather up the paper and toss.
I prefer the heavy duty pans (12” x1 7”) that don’t warp in the oven heat, and adore my quarter sheet (9” x 12”) pan for cooking smaller items.
I like the versatility of kitchen shears because they make the task of quick cutting a breeze. They’re great for snipping chives, scallions and herbs, or cutting bacon lardons or chicken strips.
Whether it’s for cooking crème brulee, individual macaroni and cheese or French onion soup, ramekins are just the right size, cook food evenly and clean up easily. They also come in handy for mise en place by keeping your ingredients organized.
Durable Measuring Spoons with 1/8 teaspoon measurement
I prefer stainless steel measuring spoons over plastic because they last longer and have a solid feel to them. My favorite set has a 1/8 teaspoon for precision measuring. I have several sets of measuring spoons and keep them in small container in a drawer; when baking, I pull out the container rather than going back and forth to the drawer for each ingredient measure.
Good Plastic Wrap with a built-in slide cutter (Costco)
Have you ever heard of the catering death wrap? When transporting food, it needs to arrive neatly, fresh and intact so copious amounts of plastic wrap are often used to achieve this. I brought this trick home, although in a more restrained fashion. When I buy meat, I portion it out for two servings and wrap it up for freezing. It’s also great for preserving small bread loaves in the freezer, placing between chicken filets when pounding out for paillards, and of course for extra wrapping when taking food to parties.
Now that you have seen my list, what are your favorite kitchen tools? Are there any that you just can’t live without? I would love to hear about it.
A little leftover Holiday Cheer from our stroll through the Denver Botanic Gardens Trail of Lights at Chatfield – this is my favorite tree to view each year! I am not sure how tall it is, but you can see the scale from the people standing in the bottom left foreground.